How can Jude’s situation be seen as emotionally tragic? – English Essay
Jude the Obscure is a novel written by the English writer Thomas Hardy. The central character of the novel is Jude Fawley, whose situation can definitely be seen as emotionally tragic, because he is “trapped by a combination of external circumstances as well as his moral flaws”. Jude is “trapped” by the things he can’t
control from the very beginning of the novel. Jude’s dreams of university education are thwarted”. (Harvey 88) Jude also gets “trapped” in his relationships with women. Jude can also be considered as a tragic character, because he often makes wrong decisions in life; and this demonstrates the weaknesses of his own character.
Jude was born in a poor family. His mother committed suicide. He had to live in a little village with his Aunt Drusilla, who didn’t care much about him. He was lonely. Jude appeared to be a child “who has felt the pricks of life somewhat before his time.” (Hardy 11) Jude doesn’t have any friends to confide in regarding his experiences. He is looking for some sort of spiritual guidance, but never finds it. When Jude comes to visit the composer of the hymn that Jude considers to be “supremely beautiful” (Hardy 155), he is disappointed, because the man is nothing but a businessman who wants to give up music, because he doesn’t’ t make money from it. Jude can’t control all of these things; they just happen. These “external circumstances” may be not tragic in themselves, but they contribute a lot to the idea of tragedy in the novel.
Jude always dreamt about a university education, but he “has not even found out how to apply for admission to a college.” (Harvey 90) Even though he is naturally smart, he is just a working man. At Hardy’s time, it was impossible for a poor person to get an advanced education. This is represented by the “terribly sensible advice” of the Master of one of the Colleges, that he should keep his trade. (Hardy 95) Jude “knew it was true. Yet it seemed a hard slap after ten years of labour”. (Hardy 95) Jude’s mistake is developing his big dream about Christminster. After that, he starts drinking alcohol, because he can’t handle it. He feels being caught in a trap; instead of doing something to help the situation, he chooses being self- destructive. This shows Jude’s emotional weakness.
Jude also gets “trapped” in his relationships with Arabella and Sue. “Arabella represents the lure of the flesh, but offends Jude by her grossness; while Sue stands for sensitivity and intellect, but frustrates him by her sexual reticence.” (Harvey 90) Jude is in love with Sue, but she marries Phillotson. Besides, they are cousins, and they can’t be together because of social expectations of their time. Sue’s marriage rehearsal in the church is very painful for Jude. “What oppressed Jude was the thought that, having done a wrong thing of this sort himself, he was aiding and abetting the woman he loved in doing a like wrong thing”. (Hardy 137) This shows Jude’s emotional weakness again. Jude and Sue have an emotional connection. Jude expects her to say that she loves him, but she doesn’t “avow” it. (Hardy 140)
Jude begins to develop a tragic view of life. He feels that he is getting kicked around for no reason, and nobody seems to care about him, God in particular. Jude’s pessimism can be clearly seen in Part Third of the novel. “And then he again uneasily saw … the scorn of Nature for man’s finer emotions, and her lack of interest in his aspirations”. (Hardy 141) “Hardy called Jude’s experience ‘ the tragedy of unfulfilled aims, which is manifested in the series of human betrayals and self- betrayals’ “. (Harvey 91)
Hardy, Thomas. Jude the Obscure. Ed. Irving Howe. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965.
Harvey, Geoffrey. The Complete Critical Guide to Thomas Hardy. London and New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2003.